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How to Build Your Mobile Game Brand in China (MARKETING TIPS)

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How to Build Your Mobile Game Brand in China (MARKETING TIPS)

Mobile game is gaining momentum over the past years—making China an appealing market not just for game-lovers, but also for those into marketing and advertising.


In the last decade, the actual sales revenue of China’s mobile game market maintained a steady growth and totaled around US$29.9 billion by the year of 2017. Among all the sub-sectors under digital games, 57% of the market share was generated by mobile games, winning the sector a dominant place in the gaming industry. The complete overtaking of home console games, client games and browser-based games is underway.





The value of the China mobile games market has expanded by 250% since 2015. 2017 was a huge year for Chinese mobile gaming which witnessed over 550 million gamers generating more than $10.5 billion in domestic revenue.


According to statistics from 2017 Global Mobile Games Industry White Paper, China’s mobile game market has become the largest in the world. With a total revenue amounting to approximately $14.64 billion, almost double the amount of the United States, Chinese mobile gaming is now widening its lead by a significant margin.


Launching and localizing a mobile game isn’t that hard, but you need to know what you’re doing and what’s been happening. So, what are the killer marketing strategies for mobile games in China? Whom should you partner with? What are the most recent successful cases that we can learn from?


In this blog, we’ll share 6 key insights about mobile games marketing in China. Scroll down and let’s take a look!




Table of Content (click to read)


1.0   China Mobile Game Distribution Platforms (Big Players & Restrictions)  Read Now


2.0   Mobile Game + Movie/ TV Read Now


3.0   Cross-border Promotion for Mobile Games Read Now


4.0   Video and Live Streaming Platforms Read Now


5.0   2-D Culture in China Read Now


6.0   Chinese KOL Economy + Mobile Gaming Read Now




1.0 China Mobile Game Distribution Platforms (Big Players & Restrictions)



The budget for a China mobile game marketing plan is chiefly allocated to distribution channels, advertising and celebrity endorsement. Distribution channels, which directly affect the exposure, always play a key role in the marketing activities for games. In the initial stage of promoting a game, the quality of a distributor even decides whether the game will be a flash in the pan or an evergreen.



There are two kinds of app platforms that serve as distributors for Chinese mobile games. Each accounts for a high proportion in the app distribution market:



1.  Comprehensive app distribution platform


2.  Dedicated mobile game distribution platform






As shown in the chart, the two platforms have their respective advantages. However, for apps like mobile games, these advantages might as well turn into disadvantages.



Comparing with the comprehensive app platforms, the dedicated ones for mobile games focus on providing game related services. By forming a specific user group, they are able to create a complete gaming community.



At present, Chinese Internet giants such as Tencent, 360 and Xiaomi have almost monopolized the distribution channels in China. The tech and social media company Tencent holds three different distribution platforms—Myapp, QQ and Wechat Mini Games, all with high traffic to monetize.





As the leading player in China’s mobile game industry, Tencent took up more than half of the domestic online gaming market with about 51.6% of the market share. With Tencent evidently on the top, it’s no surprise that one of the most popular mobile titles was born in this company. Tencent’s Honor of Kings, a fantasy role-playing game, has averaged 100 million monthly active users through 2017, making it the most popular of China’s mobile games of its kind among young gamers.







Brand recognition matters, more than 80% of the Chinese gamers buy their games from familiar brands. Users in China can choose among hundreds of app stores, but tend to stick to those they are most familiar with.



Due to the government censorship requirement, The Google Play Store is not available in China. This is just one of the many restrictions that any foreign company aiming for the Chinese market would need to deal with. One possibility for them is to cooperate with a local counterpart who has a thorough understanding of the possibilities and regulations in the market.



A good example of this is the cooperation between Mojang AB, a Swedish video game developer, and NetEase, a Chinese gaming giant like Tencent. The two companies recently teamed up for developing a version of Minecraft, a world-renowned sandbox game, tailored for the Chinese market.


Minecraft has received numerous global awards. Image source


Therefore, if you want to localize your game to the Chinese market, forming a partnership with a top distribution brand can be a great way to get started.




2.0 Mobile Game + Movie/ TV



Collaboration between games and movies or television series is the new trend for mobile game marketing. And it still seems to be gaining momentum.



IP dramas have been enjoying huge popularity in China. IP, the abbreviation for Intellectual Property, can be a story, a character or a sort of popular culture. As long as it has a fan base of a considerable size to support it to be adapted into movies, television series or online games, almost anything can be called an IP.



Last year, many of China’s mobile games partnered with media companies, churning out games based on popular IPs. In addition to a high exposure that comes with the publicity of the IP, gaining fans of the IP and of celebrities relevant to that IP as their first batch of users is another benefit from this kind of collaboration.



–Case study–


The Journey of Flower – since its broadcast, the rating and popularity had run high. The mobile game of the same name once occupied the top positions on the APP Store. Downloads of the game had exceeded 100 million RMB in revenue, within only a month of its launch.



The Journey of Flower (Chinese: 花千骨),  a 2015 Chinese television series.   image source



Most of the movies and TV series only consider developing a gaming IP after receiving good response from earlier broadcasts. Yet usually the popularity of a television series peaks around two months later than the time it was first aired. Having the game go online at this time is very likely to face a subsided popularity. Releasing the TV series and the game at the same time can solve this problem. When the series is still airing, the gamers/audiences have stronger emotional resonance and desire for engagement in the story.



On the top of that, the mobile game also had Zhao Liying, the actress starred as the heroine in the TV series, for its endorsement with a style consistent to the series. This serves as a great promotion for both the game and the series and also strengthened the link between them.


The mobile game of the Journey of the Flower. Image source



However, the combination of game and TV series also have some disadvantages. The most obvious one is the gradual decline in popularity when the tv series is no longer showing. Therefore, the life cycle of mobile games completely dependent on a TV IP may be even shorter than those traditional ones.




3.0 Cross-border Promotion for Mobile Games



The cross-border promotion with FMCG (Fast-moving consumer goods) and fast food restaurant chains has become another trend in the recent years. For example, the cooperation between Pringles and CrossFire, Tencent’s insanely popular first-person shooter video game. Consumers can get the item code of CrossFire by purchasing Pringles potato chips. The packaging for the potato chips has turned into a promotion channel for the mobile game. Both CrossFire and Pringles can reach a larger group of users through such non-traditional cooperation.






4.0 Video and Live Streaming Platforms



The young generation born after the 80s and 90s spend large chunks of their time on video and live streaming platforms every day. Some popular names of such platforms include Douyu , Youku and Bilibili. All three of these platforms can be very important for Chinese mobile games.



Douyu (Chinese: 斗鱼), a live streaming platform for online gaming.





Youku (Chinese: 优酷), a video website like YouTube.





Bilibili (Chinese: 哔哩哔哩动画), an anime and gaming site.




After going online, many mobile games would choose these platforms for their second round of promotion, having its users live stream the game or upload related videos to gain public attraction.



Among them, Bilibili has developed several unique features that enable it to distinguish itself from rival platforms. The site allows its viewers to send real-time comments that cross the screen as the video plays, which significantly increases the sense of engagement. It also provides a series of ways to immerse its users in what they call the “2-D culture” (whose artifacts include anime, comics and games, also known as the “ACG culture”).



A video on Bilibili featuring the gamer playing a mobile game, the viewers are sending real-time comments cross the screen. Image source



With a user base distinctively young—more than 55%of the viewers are under the age of 24, Bilibili creates a community for Chinese gamers to share their gaming experience. When it comes to social media related to China’s mobile game community, there isn’t any similar platform of this scale while also being able to keep its users high engaged.



The later stage of promotion and operation, especially when the game has already gone online, is of vital importance. A video or live streaming platform like Bilibili or Douyu for gamers to discuss on is surely something that an outsider to the Chinese market should be aware of.




5.0 2-D Culture in China





The “2-D culture”, a culture developed around the 2-D characters from Japanese manga and anime. With its popularity continues to increase in China with a large market potential, many Chinese gaming conglomerates started to bankroll these subcultures. A large portion of China’s mobile games feature this particular art style.



The market research company iResearch published in its 2015 report that the ACG fan population in China has hit the number of 219 million. Considering the fact that it is a number bigger than two-thirds of the current population of the United States, the potential of ACG market in China is huge. What’s even more exciting is that over 90% of those who follow the ACG culture are below 24. This is a demographic which any farsighted gaming company would like to reach to.



For example, Tencent has announced an investment of around $46 million in local ACG artists and studios to increase its market share in the ACG related products. This market has been dominated by Japan over the years. This shows that ACG will play an important role in China’s mobile game market for years to come.


–Case Study–


Onmyoji Mobile Game. Image source


Onmyoji is a 3D anime-style mobile RPG (Role-playing Game) with its set in the mythical Heian period of Japan. In the game, gamers adventure in the story solo or team up with friends and guild mates to become the ultimate Onmyoji. This mobile game has a strong Japanese animation style, thus the company targeted specifically the ACG community during operation.



At the initial stage of promotion, the Onmyoji operation team participated ChinaJoy, the largest digital entertainment expo in China. They elaborately decorated the exhibition hall in a style of the ancient houses in Kyoto. The team also had some Cosers (cosplayers) dressed in kimono introducing the game to visitors whom mostly are the core target for ACG culture.



Seeing the surging popularity of this “2-D culture”, those who are attempting to capitalize on the lucrative Chinese market may think about following a similar route to connect with the Chinese gamers.




6.0 Chinese KOL Economy + Mobile Gaming



The Fan economy can benefit multiple markets, including the China mobile game market. Mobile games can also take advantage of the booming KOL (Key Opinion Leader) phenomenon in China to expand the fan base. China’s mobile game publishers can cooperate with gaming KOLs on Weibo and Wechat (two famous social media platform in China) or the live streaming platforms mentioned above. One common way is to pay the KOLs for promoting the game. These KOLs normally have a huge and precise fan base which can be transformed into high traffic.



Two of the top gaming KOLs on Weibo.







When moving into a new market, especially one with strict regulations like China, it takes a lot of time to find out about the right digital marketing strategies. China’s mobile game industry moves at a blazing fast pace, so having someone on the ground with the ability to stay on trend can be vitally important.


We can design different plans that will suit your company as well as make the most of your budget. However, if you would like to know more about what we can do for you, visit our services page!


Also, please visit our website for more information and professional analysis about marketing in China!


Dragon Social stays are up-to-date with trends in China social media marketing.  Contact us or read more about marketing in China below!



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Queena LIU

A Chinese blogger residing in Hong Kong with a translation degree from Hong Kong Baptist University. Digital Marketer for Dragon Social, expertise in helping businesses succeed by providing holistic marketing strategies and up-to-date insights.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 6:15 pm, August 15, 2018

    This is a very useful article! I like it and I would love to share it with my friends!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 6:17 pm, August 15, 2018

    Very good article with special opinions!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 7:08 pm, August 15, 2018

    This is a good topic to study

  • Avatar
    Posted at 10:36 am, October 8, 2018

    a very in-depth piece, v helpful, shows great desktop research skills too. whoever hired this lady should give her a raise cuz she a real asset to the firm. thanks a lot for the work, keep it up!

  • Avatar
    Dhrumil Barot
    Posted at 12:55 pm, December 27, 2018

    Thank You Queena for sharing your wonderful insights 🙂

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